MRT privatization, PPPs will ‘bury alive’ consumers – Anakbayan

Youth group Anakbayan called for a stop to government moves to privatize the MRT, as well as other proposed PPP projects, saying these will ‘bury alive’ ordinary Filipinos under an array of tax and fare burdens that will result from the projects.

“Returning the MRT to private hands is a double whammy to the riding public. While we are still paying for the original investor guarantees during the construction of the MRT, the Aquino government’s ‘PPP sweeteners’ means another round of burdens for tax payers and MRT costumers” said Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo.

In the original Build-Lease-Transfer (BLT) contract between the government and the consortium that build the MRT, which includes the Ayala Corporation, the former assured the latter of a 15% annual return of their investments. The guarantee resulted in the ballooning of gov’t costs as it was forced to shell out funds to meet the promised 15% pay-out. The resultant debts of these costs constitute a huge part of the MRT’s expenses, and is one of the main arguments for the hiking of the railway’s fares.

Crisostomo expressed his fear that the above experience would be repeated in the privatization of the MRT.

Aside from the privatization of the MRT, the Aquino administration is also putting up the LRT-1 line up for sale. Additionally, it is putting up for grabs the contracts for the construction of three new expressways: one that will link the Southern Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX), an extension of the SLEX, and an extension of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) expressway.

The repetition of the MRT’s experience is not the only thing that worries the militant group of young workers, professionals, and students. Anakbayan is also condemning other ‘PPP sweeteners’ that are included in the 23 ‘priority bills’ presented by President Aquino to the LEDAC (Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council).

Included in the 23 is HB 4152 (Consolidated Investments Incentives Code of the Philippines) which grants tax exemptions to foreign investors. Another proposed measure would ‘protect’ PPP projects classified as ‘nationally significant’ from TROs (temporary restraining orders), such as TROs against expressway toll fare hikes.

Also yesterday, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) announced it would contribute $300 million to a ‘PPP fund’ which would be used to pay or ‘pre-development costs’ of such projects, including land acquisitions.

“First, ordinary taxpayers and consumers will shoulder lost government revenues due to tax exemptions. Second, we will be made to pay higher fares and toll fees that are ‘immune’ from TROs and any other gov’t intervention. Third, the government is putting up more and more of our taxes and remittances to pay for some of the PPP costs. Napaka-layo sa pangako ni Noynoy nung SONA na wala tayong gagastusin sa PPP” lamented Crisostomo. ###

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